When Calls the Heart(9)By: Janette Oke
There really wasn't much room for walking, and I got the impression that my stalking back and forth in the narrow aisle was irritating to some of the other passengers. I smiled my sweetest smile at those nearest to me. "After sitting so long, I simply must work some of the knots out of my muscles before we reach Calgary," I explained. I hoped that they didn't realize it was in reality nerves rather than stiffness that drove me from my seat.
I walked to he end of the aisle and was nearly hit by the door when it swung open before the returning conductor. He looked at me with a startled expression and then got on with his job which was at this point to call out in a booming voice, "Calgary! -Calgary!" He passed through the car and into the next, still calling.
A bustle of activity followed in his wake as people gathered their belongings, said good-byes to new acquaintances, donned jackets or shawls, and put on bonnets or hats that had been laid aside. I used the reflection from the window glass to adjust my new green bonnet.
The train blew a long, low whistle. One could almost feel exhausted thinking of the amount of steam necessary to produce such a sound. Then the clickity-clack of the wheels began to slow down till I was sure that if' one would choose to concentrate on the task, each revolution could be counted. We were now traveling past some buildings. They appeared rather new and were scattered some distance apart. Most were constructed of wood rather than the brick or masonry which I was used to back home. A few of the newest ones were made of sandstone. The streets were not cobblestoned, but dusty and busy. Men and, thankfully, some women too, hurried back and forth with great purpose. The train jerked to a stop with a big hiss from within its iron innards like a giant sigh that the long journey was finally over. I sighed too as I stood and gathered my things from the seat where I had piled them neatly together. Working my way toward the door, half-step by halfstep in the slow-moving line of fellow passengers, I couldn't keep my eyes from the windows. It was all so new, so different. I was relieved to spot many men in business suits among the waiting crowd. It was a comfort of sorts to realize that the men of the West were not all rough-and-ready adventurers.
And then through the crowd, seeming head and shoulders above all others, I noticed two men in red tunics and broadbrimmed Stetsons. Julie's Mounties! I smiled to myself at the thought of her excitement if she were here! Even their walk seemed to denote purposefulness, and though people nodded greetings to them, the crowd seemed to automatically part before them out of respect. I bent down a bit so that I could get a better view of them through the window. I was immediately bumped from behind by a package tucked beneath the arm of a rough-looking man with a cigar in his mouth. I flushed and straightened quickly, not daring to meet his eyes.
When it was finally my turn, I carefully stepped down, grateful for the assistance of the conductor with all my parcels and a small suitcase. When I had negotiated the steps, I looked up into the smiling eyes of an almost stranger-yet somehow I knew instantly that it was Jonathan. Without a moment's hesitation I dropped what I was carrying and threw my arms around his neck.
Despite my proper upbringing, I was sorely tempted to stare at everything that our automobile passed on the way to Jonathan's house. Never in my life had I seen a town like Calgary! Cowboys on horseback maneuvered expertly between automobiles and pedestrians in the dusty street. Two ladies, their long skirts lifted daintily, crossed quickly in front of us. And there was a real Indian, in dark coat and formal hat with a long braid down his back! I tried desperately not to let my extreme fascination at the interesting activities around me show, but I guess I failed.
Jonathan chuckled, "Calgary is a show-off, isn't it, Elizabeth?" As the color moved slowly into my cheeks, he courteously turned his eyes back to the road so as not to embarrass me further. He had not lived so long in the West as to forget that it was improper for a lady to stare.
"Do you know that I've lived in this town for almost sixteen years, and I still can't believe what is happening here?" Jonathan continued matter-of-factly. "It seems that every time I drive through the streets another building has sprung up. It reminds me of when I was a child at Christmastime. I went to bed at night with the familiar parlor as usual; but in the morning, there was a bedecked tree, festooned with all manner of strings and baubles and glittering candles. The magic of it! No wonder children can easily accept fantasy. And this is almost like a fantasy, don't you think, Elizabeth?"